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Interview-Tessa Meyer Santiago

September 11, 2009

Ashley Archibald/Anna Orr: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Tessa Meyer Santiago: I don’t know that I was interested in writing until I got to Brigham Young University and took Bruce Jorgenson’s 312 class as a freshman. He gave us a personal essay and told us to copy its style. That essay is the first thing I remember writing. So my first publication was in Insight back in 1986, inspired by Jorgenson’s class.

AA/AO: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

TMS: I read weekly and recently read a piece by Kate Gibbons. I can’t remember the exact names of the other books I’m reading. There is one by Doyle, he writes Irish comedies and he is brilliant. I am reading a novel about a chef in an English kitchen. The best book that I’ve read in a long time is a mythic about a Wyoming cowboy.

AA/AO: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

TMS: The challenging thing is to not get carried away by emotion. You can start with something, an image for example, and explore around it, embroider it, make it bigger, larger and fancier, and think, “Oh, this is the most wonderful thing.” When you really look at it, though, it’s not authentic anymore. It’s got frosting and sprinkles, and, because I write personal essays, it’s not what it needs to be. That’s my challenge: to not go where the emotion is.